It’s no surprise that accidents happen, even when we’re trying to be careful. But because we’re outside more and the days are longer, summer can be an especially dangerous time. According to SafeKids Worldwide, there’s an 89 percent increase in children drowning in the summer months, for example.
Fortunately, turning your baby’s summer into a safety zone is a matter of making a few precautionary tweaks. Here are some small risks you might be taking that can lead to big problems, and tips for avoiding them.
Slip-up: Leaving your child in the car. Each year, 38 children die from heat stroke after being left unattended in motor vehicles, according to Kidsandcars.org. The inside of a car can heat up quickly—to as high as 122 degrees F in less than 20 minutes on an especially hot day. According to International Parking Institute, five toddlers have already died of heat stroke in hot parked vehicles this summer in Idaho, Florida, Louisiana, and Arizona. Moreover, young children overheat faster than adults because they’re less able to regulate their body temperature.
Play it safe: Never leave your baby in the car, even with the windows “cracked,” or even just for a few minutes. And keep in mind that a change in routine or a bad night’s sleep can easily lead to the unthinkable—driving to work with your sleeping baby in the car and forgetting that it’s your day to drop her off at daycare. To help you remember that your baby is in the car, put a soft toy in the front seat. Or secure something you need, such as your diaper bag or backpack, in the backseat near your baby. Also, get in the habit of checking to make sure that everyone has exited the car when you get to your destination and lock car doors when you leave so a curious toddler can’t climb in your car when you’re not looking. Keep your car keys and remote control devices out of your child’s reach too.
Slip-up: Assuming someone else is watching the kids. “At pool parties, many parents assume somebody else is watching. Mom assumes Dad’s watching. Dad assumes Mom’s watching and it’s easy to get distracted,” says Phyllis F. Agran, M.D., M.P.H., professor emeritus of pediatrics at the UCI School of Medicine, in Irvine, California. Even a few unsupervised minutes in the water can be deadly for a young child.
Play it safe: Assign a supervisor. One of you needs to be officially on duty and concentrating on your child. At pool parties with present, designate a supervisor and make it clear by saying to your spouse, for example, “Okay, you’re on duty while I’m chatting with our friends.” The on-duty person shouldn’t read, text or use his smartphone. And don’t think it’s enough to make older kids, who are having fun too, keep an eye on the younger ones. Make that water watcher is your spouse or another adult.
Slip-up: Keeping the wading pool filled. “Young kids can drown in an inch of water or less,” says Drengenberg, so don’t think the water in your child’s baby pool is harmless.
Play it safe: “Dump the wading pool when you’re done with it,” Drengenberg says. “And turn it upside down so it doesn’t catch rain water.” In fact, empty all outdoor containers of water after use, including five-gallon buckets and insulated coolers; they’re a formidable drowning hazard. In fact, according to SafeKids Worldwide, the majority of infant drowning deaths happen in bathtubs or large buckets. If you have a hot tub at home, be sure to install a lockable safety cover.
Slip-up: Leaving your medication on the hotel night stand. “When we’re traveling, it’s often much easier for toddlers to get into things that might be safely stored at home,” says Soloway. We stow medication and vitamins in suitcases, on night stands–places that are accessible to children, she says.
Play it safe: If you don’t have access to a locked cabinet, store your medication and vitamins out of your child’s reach just like you would at home. Lock all medication, including over-the-counter products, in your suitcase or a medication travel case that locks or store it on a high shelf. Do the same at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, too, and do a safety check. Make sure any medication or vitamins they take aren’t accessible to your child.